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Staff Picks: Books

The Divide

Over the years, I have enjoyed reading Matt Taibbi’s current events articles in Rolling Stone, although I did feel at times that his over the top, (but funny) vitriolic name calling cut into his credibility. He is undeniably intelligent and is excellent at explaining complex issues in easy to understand and entertaining prose. 

 
For the first time, I delved into one of his books, The Divide: American Injustice in the Age of the Wealth Gap. Here Taibbi investigates the banking/housing financial crisis of 2008, where clearly fraudulent business practices led to the loss of 40% of the world’s wealth, but almost no one went to jail, alongside the proactive policing of the poor that is filling our jails even though crime is declining. 

 
One thing he uncovers is that government agencies are reluctant to go after wealthy corporations because it would cost so much to bring those cases to trial and would be harder to win, because of the top notch lawyers these corporations can employ. On the other hand, the poor are vulnerable and easy to convict; low hanging fruit. 

 
I ask myself if this is anything new. Hasn’t this divide always existed? Taibbi argues that the divide is growing and threatens our country’s foundational values.


We Are Never Meeting in Real Life

I’m deeply in love with the book We Are Never Meeting in Real Life by Samantha Irby. She writes with a candor that can be uncomfortable at times, but with a purpose: self-reflection that compels the reader to see their own humanity. This book is about what it is to be a person, because being a person is horrible a lot of the time, occasionally all right, and usually ridiculously funny. Irby is so incredibly funny that I spit out my coffee multiple times while reading this book because I couldn’t control my laughter. Read this book.


Hunger

In a world where “thin and fit” has become the (assumed) aspiration of every woman and one’s deviation from that end the standard by which women are so often judged, Roxane Gay’s new book, Hunger: A Memoir of My Body, stands out. It is brave, funny, and heart-wrenching, but mostly break-open honest, exposing an existence few of us can fully appreciate. Until now…at least a little bit.

Listen to Gay's interview on Fresh Air.

 


Detroit Terror

Terror in the City of Champions: Murder, Baseball, and the Secret Society that Shocked Depression Era Detroit – what a story!

This is a look at Detroit in the mid 1930s mixing sports, especially baseball, with the racist Black Legion killing spree. Although the Tigers figure prominently, the Lions and the Red Wings, are also part of the story as is Joe Lewis. This was the time period with three major sports titles in Detroit at the same time. What a contrast to the Black Legion.

I didn’t grow up here and don’t know a lot of Michigan history but friends who did, didn’t know about this shameful time.

Added bonus: author, Tom Stanton, will be speaking at our Oshtemo Branch on Tuesday, July 25 at 6 PM. I expect he will discuss this history and his research, and will be signing books.


Dewey the Library Cat

I always thought library cats only existed in myths, until I read this book about Dewey Readmore Books, the library cat who had lived in the Spencer Public Library in Iowa for 19 years. 

Dewey was left in the library's drop box one cold winter night, when the temperature was only minus 15 degrees outside. Since then he had become the king in the library. He brought light and laughter into the little town. Patrons went to the library just to see him and spend time with him. He had attracted media from all over the world. 

I enjoyed reading this book as the author Vicki Myron, former director of the Spencer Public Library, shared how Dewey comforted her during her life's biggest challenges. I thought about how we all have different difficulties in life, but when we look back, most of the time we would see the small blessings surrounded us. 


Sun, Moon, Earth

Here’s a very timely book, especially in view of the fact that there will be a total eclipse of the sun on Monday, August 21. The subtitle: The History of Solar Eclipses from Omens of Doom to Einstein and Exoplanets. To set the tone, author Tyler Nordgren quotes The New York Times in reference to an eclipse that occurred in 1925, “It is a spectacle pure and simple, the most magnificent free show that nature presents to man. Not to view the coming one would be literally to lose the opportunity of a lifetime.” The book is dedicated to the author’s father, who “still feels terrible about me missing the 1979 eclipse. Don’t worry anymore; it set me on the path to be the right person at the right place and time for 2017.” There are nice illustrations as well as a map that shows the paths of total solar eclipses that will take place all the way down to 2065. Anyone wanting to prepare for August 21 or learn the science and history of eclipses would like this book. If going to St. Louis, which is directly in the path of totality, one should call ahead. My brother who lives there says the hotel reservations are filling up fast.


Science loves Ignorance

This book is a nice, short, entertaining reflection on how science actually works in the real world. Part theoretical, where the author gives his thoughts, and part hands-on, where the author provides "case studies" of real scientists grappling with real questions, I recommend this book for all casual science lovers.

The idea is simple: what we don't know is what drives science. And we don't know a lot.


I like a warm, rustic look!

This book has a lot of great ideas! A lot of them are simple, easy and inexpensive. I think I’ll try a couple of them but I’m not sure if I’ll be able to pull it off. The most striking thing about Liz Fourez’s home is how clean and fresh it looks. The reused wood and re-purposed household utensils add pizzazz and create a calming environment. Very fengshui, at least what I know about fengshui. I like the clean look of the overstuffed chairs at the dining room table but I’m afraid of the antique grater dish towel holder. I’d probably scrape my knuckles every time I reach for a towel, but it’s a clever, neat idea. 

I guess I like A touch of farmhousecharm: easy DIY projects to add a warm and rustic feel to any room because it's full of easy DIY ideas that anyone can do. 


Are Hunters Environmentalists?

Recommended to me by a fellow staff member, I was a little reluctant to read this book. While I am a hunter myself - I hunt once a year for deer in the U.P. - I don't like to talk about it, as if hunting had any moral value. In my opinion, veganism and vegetarianism are the superior moral choices to killing and eating animals. Thus my hesitation to read a book about it.

The book is well written, researched, and has a touching personal narrative that is interwoven with the thoughts, data, and exposition about food, hunting, death, guns, and environmentalism. The entire purpose of the book is this: why can't hunters and environmentalist just get along? In theory they should. There is common ground. The book tries to expose the myth about hunters-as-NRA-gun-nuts, and tries to bridge the gap. Does it accomplish this? Not sure. See for yourself.


This is What a Librarian Looks Like

The first librarian in my life was my elementary school librarian. Everyone was so afraid of her. She would yell at us if we didn't put the books back to the correct places. Since then I have always thought that librarians were book police that all they did was keeping their books safe.

It was not until I was in a college research writing class when I realized librarians can also help me come up with research topics, guide me through the research process, and even proofread my citations! And of course, working at the library now also helps me understand that librarians actually do all kinds of things.

This book includes more than 200 portraits of librarians. They share their passion towards what they do and why that is meaningful and important. This books helps the public to understand that there are so many different kinds of librarians out there, and they all share a common goal: to help people.